Jose Bautista and Adam Lind
No one can say Alex Anthopoulos doesn't do his due diligence. According to Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com, Anthopoulos makes more phone calls to rival executives than any other general manager in baseball. This guy puts in work.
Approaching this season's non-waiver trade deadline, July 31, the Blue Jays are rumored to be both buyers and sellers. Anthopoulos must be busy.
While every contending team in need of bullpen help has been linked to the Blue Jays, there is also talk of Toronto being interested in acquiring some of the bigger names on the market. Outfielder Colby Rasmus of the St. Louis Cardinals, closer Heath Bell of the San Diego Padres and even Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez have all been rumored to be on the Jays radar.
But when speaking with other teams, there are a few names that shouldn't enter the discussion. These players are too good — or will be — to consider moving.
Jays fans would go crazy if Brett Lawrie, the prized Canadian prospect, was traded. He is punishing Pacific Coast League pitching and would have already been called up if he hadn't broken his hand in May. He's now healthy and right back to where he left off.
After going hitless in his first two games upon returning to the lineup, he has 13 hits in seven games. Overall, this season he is hitting .352 with 42 extra base hits in 61 games for the Jays AAA affiliate in Las Vegas.
He certainly looks ready.
That being said, if Lawrie continues to improve defensively and can erase rumors of his questionable make-up, he could very well become one of the most untouchable Jays.
Adam Lind, 28, is having a bounce-back season in 2011. He exploded on the scene in 2009 with a .305 batting average, 35 home runs and 114 RBI. But he came crashing down to earth in 2010 when his numbers fell considerably in every major offensive category. That was last season, though, and in 2011 Lind is out to prove 2009 was no fluke.
In 78 games this season, Lind is hitting .290 with 19 home runs and 59 RBI. On top of that, he has gone from being a below-average outfielder to an above-average first baseman. Despite only playing 11 games at first base prior to this season, Lind now looks like a seasoned veteran in that position. He doesn't look out of place and routinely digs out throws in the dirt.
Lind is under contract through 2013 at $5 million per season, and the Jays have options for an additional three years at an average of $7.5 million per season. With no prospects banging on the door at first base, Lind appears to be in Toronto for the long haul. If he continues to perform at this level, he is worth at least twice what the Jays will be paying him over the next few years.
There are a number of very talented young shortstops in baseball today and Yunel Escobar deserves to be mentioned among them.
Hitting primarily out of the leadoff spot this season, Escobar, 28, is leading all MLB shortstops in walks (46), ranks third in average (.303), and fourth in hits (109). In addition to his work at the plate, Escobar is also a stellar defensive shortstop.
According to baseballplayersalaries.com, Escobar is responsible for 15 percent of Toronto's on-field performance, while only taking home 4.84 percent of the team's payroll. Even when his salary increases from $2.9 million this season to $5 million in 2012 and 2013 (with club options at the same price for 2014-2015), Escobar will still be a bargain.
Even when prized shortstop prospect Adeiny Hechavarria is ready for the big leagues (possibly in 2013), Escobar remains just as valuable to the Blue Jays.
His fielding ability would make for an easy switch to second base, which is likely to be vacated by Aaron Hill, whose $8 million options for 2012-2013 are far too expensive for the type of hitter Hill has become.
Ricky Romero, 26, is the first Blue Jays pitcher not named Roy Halladay to make the All-Star game since 2006. Romero, the default ace of the Blue Jays since the departure of Halladay and Shaun Marcum, is having his best season in the bigs.
Don't let the 7-9 record fool you. Romero is one of the premier pitchers in the American League. He has compiled a 3.27 ERA in 20 starts this year, while striking out 117 batters in 134.2 innings. If he can bring his walk totals down (3.5 BB per nine innings, right around his career average) he could be even better.
He's the perfect front-end of the rotation pitcher. He has a five-pitch arsenal, including an above-average fastball and one of the better changeups in the game. He routinely pitches deep into games and has a strong durable arm, topping 100 pitches in all but four starts this year. What's more, he is a great clubhouse leader. In his third full season in the majors, Romero is the veteran of a very young rotation and he's not afraid to call out his teammates when he feels they need to up their game.
His $30 million, five-year contract kicks in next season and that's a small price to pay for the ace of a major league rotation. He's far too good and much too cheap to consider dealing at this point in his career.
Was there ever any doubt?
This is a guy who is leading all of baseball in the following categories: home runs (31), walks (88), OBP (.466), SLG (.680), OPS (1.146) and, not surprisingly, intentional walks (16). He is an above-average defensive third baseman and an even better right fielder.
Bautista, 30, has good instincts in the field and perhaps the best outfield arm in all of baseball right now. Despite not starting a game in the outfield in over a month, Bautista is still tied for fifth in the majors with eight outfield assists.
He is the undisputed clubhouse leader and a bridge between the English- and Spanish-speaking players. He's credited with being a mentor to the Jays younger players, in particular Yunel Escobar. His value to the Blue Jays is immeasurable. He is the cornerstone of the franchise and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
The five-year, $64 million contract he signed in the off-season now seems like a steal. He should, arguably, be the highest paid position player in the majors.